Mollie Makes published my article on how creative clubs can boost your confidence yesterday. I love the illustration they used with it! Read it on their site or in the screenshot below:
It was cut back a bit from my original for the sake of brevity, and I like how they rejigged the introduction! But some of the quotes from the lovely ladies I spoke to were lost, so to make sure they’re used somewhere, here’s my original article in full:
How creative clubs can boost your confidence
Ever wanted to crochet a giant unicorn, exhibit a dress you’ve made or meet creative people who live near you? Whether you’re an enthusiastic crafter in your spare time or a creative professional craving new opportunities, creative clubs or collectives can give you fresh inspiration and a chance to make a bunch of passionate friends.
Meet passionate friends
As Catherine Mugonyi of Blackpool-based craft club Aunty Social says: “Coming together and ‘nerding out’ over craft can be a wonderful experience. You come away with great advice, new ideas, improved skills, a heap of inspiration and new friends.”
Aunty Social was set up to provide a friendly, informal space to craft, and “Soon we found that there were lots of people who liked making bonkers craft (eg giant fluorescent crocheted unicorns and cows) and having a laugh over all kinds of silliness,” says Catherine.
Members find great support in the regular meetings, where they can share their passion for knitting, crochet, sewing, jewellery making, papercraft, drawing, cross stitching and more, and help each other to progress. Member Mickey Gianfrancesco says: “We are all inspired by each other and pool our ideas, everyone having an opinion and a different way of doing something. Tackling a minor stumbling block alone can seem huge, when often you just need a friend to help.”
Members are also supported to sell items, should they wish, via the club’s connections with professional makers and local business support groups. The club’s own outlet, Charabanc, gives members a safe space to test run their creations as they move from hobbyists to semi-pro. As member Emma Cottam (C&E Designs) says: “Charabanc was one of the first suppliers of my products and through this outlet, among other local suppliers, our business has grown.”
Member Norma Foulds says Aunty Social “gives me confidence in making new things. Now I have gone freelance I am trying to make and sell things, and I don’t think I would have been as confident doing that if I hadn’t been to the group.”
Gain new skills
Hannah Goring runs Tibenham Craft Club in Norfolk, where members indulge in crochet, knitting, patchwork, screenprinting, block printing, fabric design and more. She has also gained confidence from being in a craft club, and has enrolled on a certified printmaking course as a result. “The feedback we give each other inspires you to keep going and to try different things,” she says.
Similarly, Tibenham member Gilly Spencer says: “I have found that by being a member of a club you can learn from each other, particularly if there is a skilled member who can really teach and sort out any problems as you go along.” Gilly says the group has encouraged her to try new skills she mightn’t have tried on her own and to teach others to crochet, beadwork, Blackwork and to make felt decorations.
Some Tibenham members take turns to run workshops at the group’s meetings, and the club has a regular stall at the community hall café selling themed items or personal projects, which helps give the makers confidence in their abilities. The group also holds an annual craft fair and takes part in a craft competition, to give them goals to work towards.
Hannah says: “I have now gained confidence to make items to sell at craft fairs and, as a result of my printmaking course, I am exhibiting a framed print for the first time as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios. I’m hoping it will sell and look forward to honing my skills. My dream would be to have my own little exhibition and people wanting to buy my prints. I also have plans for a home studio!”
Get a friendly push
Another group with big plans are seam, a textile collective in Bath that was formed after the original members finished their textile MA. The group put on collective exhibitions and help each other with individual creations and projects. Members also exhibit, teach and sell separately, but enjoy the chance to work with each other.
As seam founding member Desiree Goodall says: “You’re all doing completely different work, but you bounce ideas off each other.”
“When you’re working self-employed or working on your own, you need to work with other people. Most people do. So you prioritise the collaborative things. It’s fun working together,” member Anna Glasbrook says.
Members pool their skills and contacts to help each other with problems and share opportunities. Chair Penny Wheeler says: “All of our ideas have been collaborative. It’s been in discussion that we’ve come up with the best ideas, I think, because people have individual ideas and you need to work on them to get a good idea together.”
Members of seam don’t just inspire each other creatively, they also push each other professionally. For their shiftWorks project they all made a shift dress, whether they normally worked in fashion or not, which “pushed everybody to try something different”, says Desiree.
They’ve also shared useful business skills such as blogging, marketing, planning events and running exhibitions (the next one in Chicago, USA, in October – the group’s first international exhibition). They even learnt how to write a funding proposal together.
One of the biggest draws of craft clubs may be that tackling new challenges – however daunting – is easier with friends. As Penny says: “It’s good that you learn by doing something that’s outside of your comfort zone, and you’ve got the support of other people who can help you do that.”
Find a creative club